Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


I welcome your comments, so do please write. Please note however that all comments are moderated prior to publication. Whilst I fully appreciate that life can be frustrating, nevertheless, abuse, SMS language and illiteracy will not be tolerated!

Friday 30 November 2012

More Middle East

Well, well, I see that it has been announced today that Israel has authorised further building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories and in East Jerusalem, the day after the overwhelming majority vote in the UN in favour of Palestine's status.  Is there a limit to the extent of the arrogance of the Israelis?

Meanwhile there is fierce fighting in the vicinity of the airport at Damascus, with the rebels now having possession of what are reported to be "heavy weapons" plus shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles.

And in Cairo, Tahrir Square is once again the scene of vigorous protests.

Is it my imagination or is it fact that there was once a Middle-East Peace Envoy in the person of that slippery fellow Blair?

If fact it was, where is this all-powerful factotum, this peace-wallah?  Has he perhaps decided to take a back seat and spend a little more time with his money?

At least I never voted for him, just as I never voted for his now-prosperous wind-baggy predecessor!  

Until the next time

Thursday 29 November 2012

More Expensive Greeny Warmist Carbon Crap

Oh God!

The energy companies will have carte-blanche to carry on their well-known policy of piracy and banditisme under the guise that it will "save the planet"

The reality is that unless new nuclear facilities are built quickly, we'll all be in the dark. The alternative is to start digging up coal again; the idea floated this week about increasing our dependency on imported gas is strategic madness; and anyway please tell me what is "green" about burning gas?  The molecules found in natural gas contain naughty carbon atoms; oh dear!

Don't for a minute imagine that despoiling the countryside with those expensive, hideous and inefficient wind generators will have any significant effect on meeting our ever-expanding energy requirements.  They are one of the best confidence tricks of all - together of course with the absurd idea that mankind is principally responsible for the  climate which, as I have observed before, has been changing ever since the day the earth began to exist.

Fuming today.

Until the next time

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Ashamed and Disgusted

It is not that I am unaware of some (at least) of the realities of international diplomatic relations, but nevertheless, I am appalled that our Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr William Hague, is proposing to abstain at a forthcoming vote at the UN in connexion with an upgrading of Palestine's status.

He would do better to demonstrate possession of some balls and remind the world that Israel has for nearly 45 years consistently ignored UN resolutions concerning the territories that it has occupied illegally and on which it condones the establishment of what are known as "settlements."

I carry no torch for the towel-headed bomb-throwers who believe that they have the authority of the Koran for their appalling acts, but equally, it is entirely unacceptable for the Israelis to behave as they have for over forty years towards the Palestinians.

Until the next time.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Characters in Books III

(Said the Cat) " Do you play croquet with the Queen today?"
"I should like it very much," said Alice, "but I haven't been invited yet."
"You'll see me there," said the Cat, and vanished.
Alice was not very much surprised at this, she was getting so well used to queer things happening.  While she was still looking at the place where it had been, it suddenly appeared again.
"By-the-bye, what became of the baby?" said the Cat.  "I'd nearly forgotten to ask."
"It turned into a pig," Alice answered very quietly, just as if the Cat had come back in a natural way.
"I thought it would," said the Cat and vanished again.

I have always loved the famous Cheshire Cat - its curious behaviour, seemingly so cat-like - so beautifully drawn by Sir John Tenniel and its brilliant creation by Lewis Carroll.  And its capacity to vanish, might just bring to mind the Cat in Animal Farm which, after the animals - or more strictly-speaking, the pigs - had taken over, appeared only at meal-times!

While thinking about this short piece I scanned others' illustrations of this mythic beast and found them very poor stuff indeed, so I conclude without further comment, just more Tenniel:

Until the next time.

Wednesday 21 November 2012


So the Pakistani Taliban were shocked on hearing of the hanging of mass-murderer Mohammed Qasab.

I would have thought that it would be impossible to shock the Taliban; I would not have been shocked had he been tried in England, given a telling-off and a year in jail (in order that his "rights" be respected).

Until the next time.

Thursday 15 November 2012


The photograph shows the United States battleship Iowa firing a full broadside from her nine 16" 50 cal guns. Each shell from these guns weighed over a ton and could be landed with surprising precision on a target over 20 miles distant; each gun weighed over 100 tons and each was capable of being independently raised or lowered.

This battleship which cost $120,000,000 to build (say $6 billions today) was obsolete in fact before it was built during the Second World War, but despite this it saw service in the 1991 Gulf War. Four ships of this class were built: Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin.

It is a sobering thought that this magnificent ship would stand no chance against a modern destroyer such as USS Bainbridge with its incredible ability to track 100 targets simultaneously and equally, destroy them with advanced missiles.

For me though it's form before function; since my early boyhood I have always loved the look of a beautiful battleship.

Until the next time

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Characters in Books II

It was at my girlfriend's (ex-girlfriend's in her view) house that I finally found a copy of Evelyn Waugh's autobiography A little Learning; it was I think the first book that I read after arrival in England  in September 2011.

It is not a complete autobiography: published in 1964, it covers  Waugh's life only up to his first employment as an assistant master at a preparatory school in North Wales, and his subsequent half-hearted suicide attempt. Bored, with declining health and reportedly longing for death, Waugh died on Easter Sunday, 1966; he was only 62.

Waugh's first (female) infatuation (according to the book) was one Olivia Plunket Greene whom he described as "astringent."  His devotion remained unrequited.

At the time of his assistant-mastership, Waugh says that he had fallen into "mock-whimsical" style of letter-writing.

One instance of this he records - in a letter to Olivia as follows: "The fields are full of preposterous white things on legs which the farmers call 'lambs' and keep to amuse their sheep." Olivia, who says Waugh, "snapped like a lizard on any affectation, replied "I have rather a thing against lambs, I think they are common."

I have found a blog article that should give those unfamiliar with the rather riotous 1920s a flavour of the time: Cocktails with Elvira.  I so like this blog that I have added a permanent link to it here (see Links right of page).

My (ex) girlfriend used to say how she wished she had been at Oxford in the 1920s; me too

Until the next time

Saturday 10 November 2012

A Curious Coincidence?

In the past two days, two very prominent Americans have resigned from their positions.  These are General David Petraeus, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Mr Christopher Kubasik, President and Chief Executive Officer designate at Lockheed Corporation.

Both men have resigned on account of extra-marital affairs, General Petraeus describing his behaviour as "unacceptable for the leader of the nation's main intelligence agency."  Mr Kubasik's resignation follows an investigation by an "ethics committee;"  the present CEO a Mr Robert Stevens commented that Mr Kubasik's relationship was "inconsistent with our values and standards."

This coincidence prompts several reflections in this writer.

First it reinforces my suspicion of a growing puritanism which I have suspected for many years: it is now routine for British MPs to resign under similar circumstances (I have never understood why this should be so). I do not see that an MP's (or for that matter any official's) private life need in any way affect his ability or indeed, inability to carry out his responsibilities. The only exception to this last point I would consider would be where an individual might be exposed to risk of blackmail which could endanger national security.

Second, I do not think that the CIA nor Lockheed should perhaps be the first in line to be adopting a high moral tone; of course optimists will say that there is always room for improvement, but both organizations have (inevitably perhaps given their fields of operation) what at the very least might be called murky histories and I do not think that senior officials' private lives are the first place to endeavour to effect an amelioration.

Third, it is well known that the French handle this sort of thing much better, having generally a greater respect for the private lives of their officials; perhaps the Americans should have reflected a little before referring to "Freedom Fries" and "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" and making silly jokes about the very competent French armed forces. I must add that I doubt that such words came from the mouths of the Director of the CIA or the CEO at Lockheed.

Fourth, both resignations have come immediately after the re-election of President Obama; a cleaning of the Augean Stables perhaps? How would such matters have been treated under a Romney presidency?

I read in the BBC article linked above that General Petraeus's affair was with his biographer, Miss Paula Bradwell.  Miss Bradwell recently produced a piece for Newsweek called "General David Petraeus's Rules for Living".  It is important to read the piece; they are very good rules, though it would take a better man than I to follow them to the letter; I do not think that the General has infringed them. 

UPDATE: I see that senior BBC reporter, John Simpson has published an encomium of the general.  Despite lacking comprehensive knowledge of the subject, I am inclined to agree. I note that Simpson touches on the subject of blackmail risk to which I referred above.  I'd be willing to wager that in such circumstances, the General would be more likely to follow the example of the Duke of Wellington and say "Publish and be damned."

Until the next time

Thursday 8 November 2012


I have, in front of me Michael Barber's rather blokey biography of the novellist Anthony Powell.

I have said "blokey" because one cannot help feeling that Barber rather lets "his slip show" here and there, since it seems pretty clear that he wishes to show himself at all times a modernist; whilst doing pretty well a lot of the time he does like to have a poke here and there (and by that I do not mean a "free poke" in Borrit's words).  Overall though quite good - say 7/10.

All this is entirely unrelated to the point of this post, or at least almost... In a footnote on p. 178, Barber says that whilst Powell was unsympathetic to Liberalism, he was anxious to add that he was not a totalitarian.  To underline this he (Powell) quotes, approvingly, one Curzio Malaparte, whose definition of a totalitarian state was:

 "A state in which everything that is not forbidden is compulsory."

Rather elegant isn't it? When one reads about five fruit and/or vegetables per day, units of alcohol, tobacco, seat belts, speed limits, the race-relations industry etc., etc., one can't help asking how far away those conditions actually are in our western European liberal democratic Utopia.


Well I did suggest that I was not overwhelmed by Barber's biography; a good thing too it seems.  The quotation does not originate with (the very interesting) Curzio Malaparte, but with another interesting character, English writer Terence Henbury White in his book The Once and Future King.  (Referring to an anthill as viewed by an ant) a notice above each entrance reads: "Everything not forbidden is compulsory." The expression has been borrowed by physicist Murray Gell-Mann in his Gell-Mann Totalitarian Principle, something to do with what to me is the utterly unfathomable discipline of Quantum Mechanics. Remember, I have never been able to comprehend the Relativity Theory so I have no chance with Quantum Mechanics.

If Malaparte used the phrase, I can find no other reference to it; he began as a fascist and ended as a communist; I suppose that he could only have used the phrase if he were an idealist within those disciplines, since I doubt any realistic fascist or communist could have kept a straight face!

Until the next time.

Wednesday 7 November 2012


Congratulations to President Obama on winning his second term, albeit with a reduced majority. I recall very well writing about his 2008 victory here four years ago.  What I wrote then about Mr Obama still stands, but I am now able to add that I consider him to be a good thing for America and wish him well in his struggles with the many problems he faces.

My friends and I are greatly relieved that his opponent failed to prevail; we found the idea of a right-wing bible-basher in the White House somewhat disturbing; compliments are due though for Mr Romney's dignified concession of defeat.  He is better acting the statesman than pontificating about a  double "second coming" apparently to be in Missouri and Jerusalem.

Until the next time

Sunday 4 November 2012

The Best Breakfast in West London

If you are an unreformed character like myself, then I suppose that it is quite possible that you enjoy a decent English breakfast.

I have eschewed, you will notice, the much-abused word "traditional" in this context; this fine old word has in recent years become a tool of the marketeers, e.g. "Traditional fish 'n' chips only £9.50"  It's the "traditional" that they imagine justifies the outrageous prices demanded these days for foodstuffs that were once the province of the poor.  Bread-and-cheese has become almost a luxury.  I recall a study made I think in the late 1980s, that found that whilst over the previous 30 years, the price of butter had risen by a factor of 10, that of cheese was thirty times higher!  Be very suspicious when "Traditional" appears; my girlfriend and I always found it a cause for ironic laughter wherever we saw it.

Anyway back to the breakfast. 

If you are in West London and in need of breakfast at any time up to 4:30 pip emma seven days a week, then visit Cafe T'arte at 270 Kensington High Street W.8. (opposite Earl's Terrace).  Order breakfast and you will receive the following, to whit:
sausage, 2 rashers of back bacon, 2 excellent eggs, 2 "hash browns", tomato, mushrooms and baked beans, together with two slices of toast and tea or coffee, beautifully presented by friendly staff, all for the sum of £4.95.

How this can be done in Kensington where flats are priced in the millions is beyond me.

Long may it continue - et bon appetit!

Until the next time